29 And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes. 30 And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go? 31 And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood;
Reuben’s language to his brothers is very interesting here. It is as if he thinks he is giving them new news. “The child is not!” Does this mean they did not tell him what they had done with Joseph? Was he left to assume that some unknown mischief had taken his brother? Did he never know that his brother had been sent away to Egypt until they met him years later?
I also find interesting his other statement “and I, whither shall I go?” Joseph was the one who had been sold, but Reuben feels lost in this moment as well. As the eldest of all the brethren he might have felt a special responsibility for all of the others, even Joseph. Now that he had failed in that responsibility he had a sense of having misplaced his own self.
And yet, Reuben wasn’t ready to come clean to his father. Rather than tell the man what they had done, Reuben went along with concocting a falsehood about some wild beast killing Joseph. All the brothers had some humbling to go through before they would be ready to own their wrongs.